Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Nice Glass of Well Water, Anyone?

It's really practical having a well.  This is Canada after all, land o' plenty when it comes to water resources.

I admit that I used to be pretty lax when it came to water usage.  Having spent the first few years here on well water, our motto was "let the water run".  The more we used it, the better it got.  It's full of iron, sulfur and black sediment.

Can I pour you a glass?

I don't think I need to tell you the glass on the left is "city" water, which we have in the house.  The lovely, appetizing glass on the right is from the well, which we still use to water the plants outside, and wash the cars.  That we used to cook, drink, shower and do laundry with this water amazes me to this day.  The quality of the water then was infinitely clearer, because we ran the well more, but today, as I took the kitty litter boxes outside for a good scrub (just the sort of thing I use well water for...), I was astounded by the quality, or lack thereof.

From time to time, our well water would just run black.  It happened in the shower, it happened while doing laundry, it happened while putting on water to cook pasta.  We're pretty sure it was just sediment from the holding tank, but nonetheless, it was disconcerting.  I'm also aware that what you can't see, E. coli, for instance, is a distinct possibility, considering we're surrounded by dairy farms.  We're also surrounded by lots of houses with non-conforming septic tanks, but  let's not even go there.   The previous owner was a biologist, and tested the water in his lab on a regular basis.  It always came up potable, but still - so did the water in Walkerton up until the tragedy - as Wikipedia so aptly puts it.

The day we finally were hooked up to city water was bittersweet.  It was like having an umbilical cord re-attached, a regression of sorts.  We could no longer deny the fact the city was encroaching and we're standing there with open arms, welcoming it.  Hypocrites!

I remember a bright, sunny day.  I can still picture the backhoe in the street, digging down, down, down, to reach the water main.  I also remember Eric plumbing the pipe out to the street.  It works like this here:  the city contractor digs down to the water main and installs a valve.  We're responsible for piping from the house to the valve.  Eric was in the crawl space, I was outside, and we spent a lot of time that day, shouting to each other through the thick wall of the foundation.  We needed to dig under the foundation, and at some point, Eric was excavating with a shovel outside (this pre-dates our John Deere TLB, which I am sure Eric was dreaming of at this precise moment), and suddenly, a few feet down, he hit what sounded like metal.  It was like the ghost of the house (and there is one - a good one) had guided Eric's shovel to an old cast-iron drain pipe that went along the house and under the foundation to the ditch.  It had sheared at the exit of the foundation, probably with years of frost heave.  It served perfectly to thread the water pipe through, once it was cleared from decades of mud and debris.   We've had a few moments of divine intervention, specifically, Madame Ménard intervention, but this was one of those moments where you raise your face to the skies, put on an ear-to-ear grin, and give praise to the powers that are.  Merci, Madame Ménard.

There are some things you dread, and the excavation was one of those things.  But within a few hours, we had real, clear, sodium hypochlorite-infused water.  Gone are the days of treating laundry with Rust-out.  The days of scrubbing rust stains out of the toilet and sink - adios!   The days of clearing blocked faucets with CLR - buh-bye!  The days of ironing Eric's white uniform shirts, and finding a huge yellow stain on the last panel - auf wiedersehen!

That evening, Eric and I stood beside the toilet and flushed, and flushed, and flushed, marveling at the clarity of the water.  We gingerly took apart and cleaned all of our taps with CLR and a toothbrush, ensuring that hard water and iron stains were a thing of the past.  We flushed out the hot water tank, adding years to its life.  It was a day to remember.

And on a day like today, when I use our well water outside, I'm taken back in time...

...and I'm so grateful we don't have to drink it anymore!

We've obviously changed our water habits.  We don't let water run needlessly, we have a low-flush toilet, and only run full loads of laundry and dishes.  Overall, we're cognizant of our consumption.  And grateful, too - very grateful -  for the clear gold that runs from our taps.


Robin said...

Our water has a red tinge to it. You should see the red rust stains in the toilet and shower. It's pointless to try and get rid of the stains as you would have to scrub it every day. We have a leak in the tub and the water makes red stalactites on the tub faucet. Having white clothes is also not possible.

Come know you miss drinking that black water of yours. :D

Shim Farm said...

That water drove me nuts! Eric needs to wear white shirts to work. They were all rust-coloured in the end. I found a great product called Iron-out at the plumbing store. It restored a few shirts, but it was still a huge PITA having to deal with awful water.

Are you thinking of installing a water conditioner? We never looked into it, because finally we just decided to hook up to city water. I understand there is some pretty neat new technology out there though, (with a hefty price tag, no doubt), that can pretty much clear up most water issues.

Actually, I'm reliving bad memories right now. The check-valve on our well at work crapped out last week, and no one has a clue where the well is. Heavy equipment comes in tomorrow to dig. This should be interesting...

Robin said...

Yes, we are going to do something to clean up our clear iron problem. We haven't looked into the details yet or gotten our water tested, but I assume some sort of water conditioner is in our future. Hooking up to the city is not an option for us.

I just found some clothes I had in storage from when we lived in town. After looking at a brilliant pair of white pants for a bit, I decided that I better put them back because they would never look so nice after one wash at our house now. lol

Shim Farm said...

Oh Robin, I feel your pain! I had a "city" wardrobe also; ahhh, the memories!

Eric and I were like 5 year-olds at Christmas when we finally had city water - it was quite pathetic that two grown adults could be so delighted at the sight of clorinated water!

There are many options out there to help clear water from sediment, iron, sulphur (all problems we had), unfortunately none of the solutions is cheap.

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